A Rectangle and a Circle Within a Square, Robert Mangold

Robert Mangold (American, born 1937) 

A Rectangle and a Circle Within a Square, 1975 

Acrylic and crayon on canvas 

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Nakamura, 1984 (5235.1) 

Robert Mangold’s paintings comprise subtle geometric relationships in which concerns with space, movement, emotional content, process, painterliness, or references to anything other than the physical painting itself are excluded. 

This sparseness lets the viewer concentrate on only the most essential elements: the relationships of forms drawn on the surface to the exterior shape of the work. Mangold sums up his approach: “The idea is always relatively simple. If the idea were too complicated or clever, it might be interesting on its own and take precedence over the actual piece. The idea and the piece should be the same.” 

The title of the museum’s painting states exactly what it is--the placement of a circle and a rectangle within a square. Since the arrangement of these shapes can be worked out in several ways, Mangold often builds a group of works around variations that are thematically related but not interdependent. In each of his works of the 1970s Mangold used a single, neutral color, applied with a roller to avoid the appearance of brushwork. The flatness, evenness, and nearly matte, slightly thick opacity of the ground suppresses connotative or expressive meaning and deemphasizes the artist’s role as creator. Nevertheless, Mangold establishes a dynamic tension that gives his works intellectual and visual power.